Pull ups seem to be the “go to” when it comes to an upper body workout or “back days” in the gym. Rows are sometimes forgotten about, or at best, relegated to the role of an assistance exercise.
When you consider the common “forward shoulder” posture, as well as the prevalence of pressing movements like bench, there is a strong case for re-examining the role of rows as a primary movement in your upper body workout, whether the goal is size, strength, or posture.
At Sparta, we focus on rows as a way to train posture just as much as back strength. By doing rows with a barbell and a parallel body position, our athletes learn to maintain a “neutral spine” and get some great “anti-flexion” core training at the same time. This upper body workout emphasis on posture has a huge carryover to force production (GRF) and injury prevention (see Sparta Point).
Additionally, rowing with a controlled tempo and pauses at the top increase time under tension for better muscular development and scapular control, 2 critical factors for posture (see Sparta Point). We also use an underhand (supinated) grip to better emphasize scapular depression and retraction. All these factors combined make underhand rows a brutally hard and effective back builder for your upper body workout.
Keys to Rows:
- Parallel body position
- Neutral spine (neck position)
- Underhand grip
- Slow tempo – pause at the top
Rows are a primary movement to developing a strong upper back, and THE best for posture. We have talked about the need to train “non-mirror muscles” in the past (See Sparta Point). But as an athlete, there are few things more beneficial than strong legs and a HUGE back.
If you do them properly, barbell rows will add some serious size and strength to your upper back while improving your posture, shoulder health and performance at the same time.